STEUBENVILLE - City leaders appear ready and willing to initiate a crackdown on dilapidated property owners who refuse to repair or demolish their buildings.
Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi told the city's planning and zoning commission Monday that progress on the current dilapidated property list is ongoing.
"Right now a dilapidated property cited into municipal court is a fourth-degree misdemeanor. Once we have officially adopted our new comprehensive plan this year I will talk to the city law director regarding stricter enforcement. Maybe we can elevate the degree of the citation from a misdemeanor to a felony. That would give the judge more options," said Petrossi.
"There are some communities that require property owners to register their properties with the city after they are vacant for six months. We all know long-term vacant houses can be a blight in the neighborhood. The longer a house remains vacant, the higher the registration fee every six months. Once a home is vacant it doesn't take long for people to go in and steel the copper pipes," explained Petrossi.
He noted his department has issued 863 citations under the property maintenance code since Jan. 1, 2008.
"We have a very fluid dilapidated property list because the number goes down when the city or the property owners demolish the structure," noted Petrossi.
He also said there are "only a handful of property owners on the dilapidated building list who own multiple properties."
"If we do have dilapidated property owners in town who own more than one property we need to go after those people," remarked 2nd Ward Councilman Rick Perkins.
Commission Chairman William Hendricks said the consultants writing the city's new comprehensive plan suggested the city crack down on the dilapidated property owners, "a little harder."
First Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto said the city should consider harsher penalties for chronic dilapidated property owners.
In other business, commission members unanimously approved the single bid received from Lepi Enterprises of Zanesville for asbestos abatement at the Grand Theater.
The $49,748 contract is being paid through the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund grant received by the city last year.
He also said a $1 million Clean Ohio Assistance Fund program grant for asbestos abatement and demolition at the former RG Steel Steubenville plant is being used for cleanup work at the site.
Petrossi announced the planning commission will hold a public hearing on the new comprehensive plan on Sept. 9, and the legislation adopting the plan will be given a third and final reading by City Council on Sept. 10.
The city currently uses a comprehensive plan written in 1964.
Petrossi reported park safety and a lighting project are proceeding on schedule.
"The light fixtures are expected to be here by July 15, and when they arrive the contractor, John Russell Construction of Steubenville, will install the new security lighting at the Belleview Park and pool, Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center and Murphy Field," said Petrossi.
The commission requested legislation from City Council officially accepting the Community Development Block Grant one-year action plan for 2013.
The city received $595,549 for the 2013 fiscal year and the money will be used for several projects, including street improvements, clearance and demolition projects, code enforcement and fair housing activities.
Petrossi warned the commission that a proposal has been made in Washington, D.C., to eliminate CDBG funds for cities under the 50,000 population mark.